October 08, 2019
On a Saturday afternoon in 1928, four-year-old Barbara Griffiths strayed into the woods surrounding Massena, New York. When she didn’t return by nightfall, her distraught parents rallied neighbors to form a search party. At some point during the search that followed, someone launched the rumor that the Jews of Massena had kidnapped and killed Barbara as part of a sick religious ritual to harvest her blood. So began the only full-fledged “blood libel” in American history, a terrible anti-Semitic accusation common in Europe but essentially unknown until then in the United States. The story of its ripple effect through a small American town sheds unsettling light on the tenuous threads that bind us as members of a diverse society -- threads that sometimes seem just as perilously drawn today as in the 1920s.
This is the theme of the lecture titled “Blood Libel in America” by historian Edward Berenson to be hosted at the University of New England Center for Global Humanities on Thursday, October 24 at 6:00 p.m. at the WCHP Lecture Hall in Parker Pavilion at the UNE Portland Campus.
Born in Massena years after the incident his lecture will detail, Berenson will draw from his new book The Accusation: Blood Libel in an American Town, which was just released in September.
Chair of the History Department at New York University, Berenson is a cultural historian specializing in modern France and its empire, with additional interests in Britain and the United States. He won distinguished teaching awards from UCLA and the American Historical Association and, in 2006, was decorated by the French government as Chevalier dans l’ordre du mérite.
This will be the fourth lecture of the 2019-2020 season for the Center for Global Humanities, where events are always free, open to the public, and streamed live online. For more information, please visit:
About the Center for Global Humanities
The Center for Global Humanities offers lectures by leading scholars to help us better understand the challenges besetting our civilization and outline new solutions for nations and peoples to live together without prejudice. Global in perspective, the Center’s lectures are streamed live on the Internet, allowing our speakers to answer questions from any country. Because the Center believes in the vital necessity of a humanities culture to civic and democratic life, it works closely with the local community to encourage reading, discussion, and debate. The Center was founded in 2009 by UNE scholar Anouar Majid, Ph.D., who serves as its director.